ARC Review: You Can’t Win Them All, Rainbow Fish

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Did you know they were still making Rainbow Fish books? I sure didn’t. Not until I saw You Can’t Win Them All, Rainbow Fish on NetGalley, that is. I couldn’t say no to this version of one of my childhood favorites. Thanks to North South Books Inc. for providing me with a copy!

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The Rainbow Fish, originally published in 1992, was considered a classic children’s book when I was in elementary school. I adored it. The lush, flowing, blue-tinged illustrations and shiny scales captured my attention, and I thought the message about sharing and kindness was great. Now, as an adult, I see that there is some controversy over it in the form of reviews containing the phrase “socialist propaganda.” Hmm. I’d have to re-read it myself to say whether the book addresses the theme of sharing and community in a positive way or not.

I cannot imagine the new release in the series, You Can’t Win Them All, Rainbow Fish being subject to any claims of impropriety or sending bad messages. The only claim I can lay against it is that, quite frankly, it’s boring.

Rainbow Fish and his friends like to play hide and seek. On one such day, they do, and Rainbow Fish gets irate when he loses, even to the youngest and smallest fish. He swims away in a huff, and is lectured by his friend on being a good sport.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that; it’s a good message for kids to hear. However, the writing is no-frills and preachy. For a book about having fun and playing with friends, it’s disappointing that there’s no whimsy or fun in the story itself.

This would be a fine book to read to kids, especially kids who need to learn some sportsmanship, but it’s not one you’ll enjoy reading for them.


All in All…

  • 3/5 sea stars
  • Publication June 1, 2017, by North South Books Inc.
  • 32 pages
  • For fans of morality stories, the other Rainbow Fish installments

I received this book free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Mini-Discussion: Reading/Writing Spots!

Good evening, all! I am writing to you from my official new favorite reading and blogging spot: my cheery, fish-and-rainbow patterned hammock hung on my brand new hammock stand!

I live in a second story apartment with a cute little balcony. It’s shadowed by two mature sweet gum trees. From here, my horizon is the swathe of pines that wrap around the backside of the buildings across the street. Even though the woods back there are hardly deeper than I can throw a frisbee (which really is not that far), when I’m cocooned in my hammock, I feel surrounded by nature.

Tonight I’m writing to the rhythm of the last, puttering raindrops from today’s storm front and the summertime trills and croons of gray tree frogs. When I get to write outside, I feel more true to myself and my voice, more in my element. When I read outside, it’s the epitome of relaxation and the most enjoyable version of my bookish experience.

Is there any particular place where you love to read and/or write? I feel like setting can be almost as important to the reading and writing processes as it is to a book, so I’m very curious to know whether or not you’ve got a special reading spot!

Bonus pic: a Cope’s Gray Treefrog I found out and about earlier!


Top Ten Tuesday: Five Books I’m Glad had Moms, and Five that Should Have

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish for sharing your favorite contenders in different book categories!

A well executed parent/child dynamic can make a book stand out from the crowd. We all have people who raised us, but lots of books conveniently forget that for simplicity’s sake. This is especially true in fantasy books: how many characters are orphans, estranged children, or have a cardboard cutout character for a mom? And if the fantasy character only has one living parent in the book, more often than not, it’s dear old dad.

Here’s to five books with moms I love, and to five that I wish had a great mom included!

Yay, Books with Moms!

The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater

Maura and Blue have an amazing balance between testing each other and trusting each other. Even when Blue wants to rebel against Maura’s rules or to push the boundaries, she always knows she has a supportive mom to come to when she needs help. Plus, they sometimes read together in Blue’s bedroom. What better mother-daughter bonding activity is there?

Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling

Don’t we all really just want for Molly Weasley to give us a hug and then tell us to go clean the kitchen? She is one of the ultimate book moms, not only for managing to raise and put up with her own children, but taking others like Harry and Hermione under her wing to boot.

A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

Catelyn Stark is one heck of a momma wolf. Over the course of the series, she goes way out of her comfort zone and deals with tremendous burdens to try to protect and guide her children.

The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen

The Queen family’s dream home suddenly feels too large after Macy’s father passes away unexpectedly, leaving only her and her mom about the house. Macy and Deborah deal with the loss in very different ways, and Dessen’s portrayal of these two trying to support each other and come to terms with their new life is wonderful and deep. You really feel for this amazingly hard-working entrepreneur mom, even when she and Macy are at odds.

The Fire Within, by Chris D’Lacey

This is an adorable children’s book that is, in my opinion, equally enjoyable for adults. In this cute story about family, creativity, magic, squirrels, and dragons, a college student rents a room from a mother with a young daughter. Liz, the mom, and Lucy, the daughter, quickly become more to David than just his landlord and her precocious kid! Liz is a creative, loving single mom who gets down to business and doesn’t put up with any crap from her kid or her tenant. Reading about her bossing David around and occasionally having to mother him as much as her own child is hilarious and heartwarming.

More Moms Needed!

 

Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas

If Celaena had some good female role models in her life, maybe she would have shown a little more character development over those thousands of pages in the series. #SorryNotSorry

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

This duology is basically perfect, right down to the level of parent-child relationship included. I loved everything we learned about Inej’s parents, and even though the series didn’t really need it, my heart still yearns for more stories about her mom. That’s a lady I’d like to give a bouquet of geraniums.

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

Again, this is a book where the lack of mom is pretty crucial to the family dynamic, but Puck’s recollections of her mom make my heart all warm and fuzzy for that awesome lady. The memory of Puck’s mom teaching her to ride a pony makes me want to hug something. Maggie, how do you make a character who doesn’t even show up in the book so vivacious?

A Shadow Bright and Burning, by Jessica Cluess

This is a prime example of fantasy books where Dad is super important and Mom is negligible. Quite a big to-do is made about what kind of person Henrietta’s father was or was not, but I remember absolutely nothing about the protagonist’s mom, and I didn’t read this book that long ago. Cluess surprised me with some of her twists and misdirections, though, so perhaps Mrs. Howell will have a bigger role to play as the series progresses.

Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake

The premise of this book is unlike anything I can recall: the Queen of Fennbirn, chosen by the Goddess, always has triplet daughters. As soon as her daughters are born, the Queen surrenders their care and her rule to the island’s governing council, then leaves the island forever. Then, when her daughters come of age, they fight to the death and the last one standing is crowned.

In this book, Queen hopefuls Katharine, Mirabella, and Arsinoe unveil a lot of drama and chaos as the day of their royal competition approaches. There are some seeerious twists at the end of the book! I really want to know more about the former Queen, Camille. What has she been doing on the mainland since her daughters were born? Did she have any hand in the drama that gets unleashed? What would she think of the way her daughters have grown up, and which one(s) would she support?


What about you?

Did you participate in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday? If so, feel free to drop me a link in the comments!

Book Review: Call Me Sunflower

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I won’t lie: books that take place in my home state are a huge draw for me. Living in the politically-dubious but naturally beautiful state of North Carolina, I am graced with plenty of choices. Thanks, Sarah Dessen and Nicholas Sparks!

Why so many authors come from here, choose to live here, or deign to write about this place may always be a mystery to me, but it’s one reason I read the hot-off-the-press middle grade release from Skyhorse Publishing, Call Me Sunflower, by Miriam Spitzer Franklin.

NC setting, NC author, and a premise both hilarious and heartwarming? Sold.

28226507Sunny Beringer hates her first name—her real first name—Sunflower.

And she hates that her mom has suddenly left behind her dad, Scott, and uprooted their family miles away from New Jersey to North Carolina just so she can pursue some fancy degree. Sunny has to live with a grandmother she barely knows, and she’s had to leave her beloved cat and all her friends behind. And no one else seems to think anything is wrong.

So she creates “Sunny Beringer’s Totally Awesome Plan for Romance”—a list of sure-fire ways to make her mom and Scott fall madly in love again. But while working on a photo album guaranteed to make Mom change her mind and rush them right back home, Sunny discovers a photo—one that changes everything.

Sunny’s family, the people she thought she could trust most in the world, have been keeping an enormous secret from her. And she’ll have to reconcile her family’s past and present, or she’ll lose everything about their future.

The protagonist, Sunny, is a spunky, imaginative girl just starting sixth grade. As if middle school wasn’t hard enough, Sunny has to deal with the fact that her family, in her eyes, is falling apart. With all of the antics involved in her Totally Awesome Plan to reunite her parents, like setting her mom up for a surprise makeover and photo shoot so she can send nice pictures back to her dad, I imagined this story would be playful. It wasn’t quite the laugh-inducing light read I was hoping for, but it definitely had some highlights.

Call Me Sunflower delves into some seriously unique ground for a middle grade novel! Sunny is a bold and independent thinker, which not only leads to the infamous Awesome Plan, but also means she chooses to engage with things that matter to her, even if it means going against the grain. She joins the Odyssey of the Mind team and explores animal rights activism. One of her Odyssey of the Mind teammates is a conscientious young vegan. I had never fathomed reading a book with Odyssey of the Mind in it, let alone sixth grade social activists on top, and I love how Sunny and her friends set an example of creativity, critical thinking, and conscious life choices being valuable things for young people to pursue.

The secret behind Sunny’s family situation caught me completely by surprise, and it’s safe to say I would never, ever have guessed it. It’s a bit of a shocker, but after the dramatic reveal, Franklin handles the unusual family arrangement with grace and lets Sunny process it and come to understand that her family is wonderful, no matter what shape it takes.

The book did stumble into a few genre tropes: there was a dash of the pretty, popular mean girl set up against the foil of unpopular “weird” kids who were all much smarter, more interesting, and more redeemable than the “normal” kids. I also had a pet peeve with the adult characters: every adult who wasn’t a teacher had the profession of “store owner.” Book store owner, health foods store owner, clothing store owner, etc. Some of the stores were related to the plot, which is fine, but how many store owners do you know? The type of store was also used to stereotype or define the adult or family attached to it.

Call Me Sunflower is as creative as its protagonist, and carries a lot of good messages for kids in the target audience. It doesn’t have a ton to offer for older readers, but would be a great book to get for a young and independent reader in your life!


All in All…

  • 3/5 sea stars
  • Published May 9th, 2017, by Skyhorse Publishing
  • 256 pages
  • For fans of plucky child characters, Junie B. Jones, Odyssey of the Mind, activism

I received this book free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Typewriter Project – An Introduction

My 3.5k word count Camp NaNoWriMo experience this April was not unsuccessful. Even if I felt that way initially, I am rewriting (hah!) my own narrative around the event, because any attempt at NaNoWriMo is always successful!

It may sound like hollow rhetoric when NaNoWriMo encourages you to feel good about only writing 10% of your goal, but thinking positively about writing and the effort you put into it–even and especially when you don’t get the results you were hoping for–really can help you. After my Camp NaNoWriMo experience, I have two options. I can tell myself, “Wow, you really dropped the ball on that one. Did you even try at all? That was definitely a failure.” On the other hand, I can choose to think, “Hey, in those words I found an idea I’m excited to explore more! I got two preliminary characters who I can start getting to know.”

If you were me, which of those two things would make you more likely to write again soon? The second? Exactly. The power of positivity counts for a lot!

So, with that in mind, I’m excited to get back on the horse by applying to join The Typewriter Project, an awesome writing project/challenge hosted by Mahriya at My Bookish Life! If this sounds like something up your alley, be sure to sign up ASAP, because the deadline for applications is May 17th! Come on and write with me!

ARC Review: Shark Lady, a Children’s Biography of an Awesome Lady in STEM

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Little me loved, above all things, the water. I caught tadpoles and minnows bare-handed, dug up cool worms at the beach, and dreamed of dolphins and sea turtles. I always said I wanted to grow up to be a marine biologist.

This is the book I wish someone had read to young me.

Shark Lady, the next science-themed children’s book from zoologist Jess Keating and 32204108Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, is everything you could want from a children’s nonfiction book.

It tells the story of Eugenie Clark, an inspiring researcher who revolutionized our understanding of sharks. Despite years of staring in awe at Shark Week programming, I had no idea about her prior to receiving this book. The erasure of the epic stories of women in science is all too common, but books like this one are going to be the cure.

Keating takes us on a journey all the way from the indomitable Eugenie’s childhood of being fascinated with sharks to the amazing discoveries she makes after years of hard work, proving she isn’t the lesser of her male colleagues, despite their prejudices. The science in the book is interesting and accessible to children, and–even better–it’s fun! I love that this book shows how the path of science led Clark to countless wonders and adventures.

Illustrator Marta Álvarez Miguens brings that wonder and exploration to life with colorful, satisfying depictions. The swirling sharks and fish of young Eugenie’s imagination are sure to delight any reader, and Miguens gets bonus points for including recognizable, accurate representation of some specific animal species, not just generic fish. The lookdowns are my personal favorite!

Even putting aside her super scientist status, this book showed me that Eugenie Clark is a role model for all of us. Determined, hard working, and curious, Clark never quit on life; she even went scuba diving on her 92nd birthday! Thanks to Jess Keating, I have a new hero.


All in All…

  • 5/5 sea stars
  • Publication June 1, 2017, by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
  • 36 pages
  • For fans of Animal Planet, Shark Week, science, women in STEM, the oceans

I received this book free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Spoonful of Change

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Wow, y’all. Life is a rollercoaster. My last Waiting on Wednesday post was a pre-scheduled post that I wrote at the end of March, so I haven’t written anything for the blog in about a month. To be honest, I feel like April kind of disappeared in a haze, here and then gone.

Almost all of my goals for last month went up in smoke, too. Rocking out Camp NaNoWriMo with an awesome cabin? Forget 30,000 words; I ended up with 3.5k. Keeping up the blogging momentum? Well, you saw how that went. In April, I got swept away by some major things in my personal life. Weekend getaway with the boyfriend and him getting an awesome new job and moving waaay closer to me: whoo! Best friend slash Ann Perkins to my Leslie Knope getting an awesome new job and moving hours and a whole time zone away: awesome and also a huge bummer. I also ran into major mounting frustrations at work, and I’ve been having a hard time not bringing my negativity home with me at the end of the day.

All month, I was either completely wrapped up with the big events happening for the people in my life or completely drained, stressed, and upset from a day at my job. Because of that, a lot of things I needed or wanted to do in my personal life fell by the wayside. I was letting outside factors take away my passion and excitement, and I needed a change.

Around the same time I realized that, my roommate and I had a conversation about habits. After his breakup, I had advised him that getting over someone came down to changing your mental habits: retraining your brain to stop always running paths to that person and to redirect to other subjects more often. He took that to heart, did some research on habits, and came back to me with ideas. Apparently, the best way to break a habit is to either apply a negative experience to it (ie; quit chewing your nails by wearing nail polish that tastes bad, so chewing the nails becomes extra unpleasant) or is to simply form new, better habits.

He also decided that the best way to form a new habit is to do it daily for a week. He started getting up half an hour earlier to go run in the morning, and it’s working so far. Now, he’s planning the next good habit to start.

I know I need to break out of some of my mental habits. It’s time for me to embrace positivity and gratitude; to live my life more intentionally, and not at the mercy of what’s going on around me. It’s time to make new habits.

So, starting last week, I adopted a new goal: doing at least fifteen push-ups per day. It’s a baby step, something easy and practical, that I can do any time I think of it. It’s something good for me. Something that, with enough persistence, I can see tangible results from. Something to make me feel accomplished and strong.

Today marks exactly one week of doing them. Some days, I even do more or feel inspired to do some other quick exercises, too. In the scheme of things, it’s only a tiny spoonful of change. But it also is a cornerstone, a place for me to continue to build. This is a commitment to myself, to my passions, to the things that matter. It’s also a fresh commitment to all the other things I dream of doing and love doing. It’s a pledge to keep reinventing myself for the better.

It’s also a refresh for my commitment to this blog. This is something I enjoy immensely, and in the month of May, it is something I will consciously make the time for.

Fifteen push-ups. Less than a minute. Just a spoonful of change. But I’m going to savor it, and one spoonful of something good almost always precedes another.